Technology Is Disrupting Intelligence & Espionage

Technology has long been seen as a source of disruption to our lives, communities and civilisations, provoking disruptive change at all scales, from individuals' routine daily activities to dramatic competition between global superpowers. This disruption can have both positive and negative effects, although they are often unevenly distributed across different groups. 

New technologies like Artificial IntelligenceQuantum computing and social media have transformed the intelligence community and given the United States’ adversaries new tools to observe and influence global politics. 

The recent Chinese surveillance balloon that was seen floating over the United States has generated a  vigorous debate which opened a window to the secret world of intelligence gathering as many countries use new technologies to get a political advantage. These disruptive technologies are now making spying far more difficult for Western nations.

In particular, the war in Ukraine is showing the espionage and intelligence worlds the risks and opportunities of open-source intelligence and that the US intelligence operation needs to wise-up to this or risk losing their way.

Professor Amy Zegart of Stanford University is the author of the book Spies, Lies and Algorithms in which she argues that the US government should change the way the intelligence community is organized. She proposes that a new US intelligence agency dedicated to open-source intelligence is needed to keep pace with the technology-driven intelligence revolution.  

In confirmation of this view, Jeremy Fleming, director of the British GCHQ spy agency, has said the West faces a battle for control of technologies such as artificial intelligence, synthetic biology and genetics.  Fleming has said quantum computing, which uses the phenomena of quantum mechanics to deliver a leap forward in computation, was getting closer and posed huge opportunities but also great risks.

The power balance in the spy world is changing and closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence 

Foreign Affairs:    European Parliament:   Australian Financial Review:    Reuters:   Council on Global Affairs

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